Felix Hernandez pitches a perfect game 8/15/12. Courtesy Getty Images
King Felix, indeed. The year of the pitcher has turned into something that carries more than a season's tone as Seattle's Felix Hernandez pitched a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco Field on Wednesday afternoon.
That's the third perfect game in the major leagues this season -- a record -- as one of baseball's greatest arms joined a quickly-growing fraternity.
After Hernandez struck out Sean Rodriguez looking to end the game and secure the 1-0 win for the Mariners' first perfect game in franchise history, teammates streamed onto the field and mobbed Hernandez and fans waved yellow "K" posters. It was the 23rd perfect game in major-league history, and the fifth since May 2010.
BOX SCORE: Mariners 1, Rays 0
"I don't have any words to explain this. When Phil Hughes almost had his perfect game here I said I have to have one," Hernandez said after the game. ''I realized in the third. I was like, wow, nobody on base.
"My whole family is in Venezuela so nobody is here so I celebrate with all of you," he said pointing to the fans.
The 2010 Cy Young Award winner, who leads the AL in shutouts this season with four, fanned 12. The right-hander struck out the side in the eighth inning, using a sharp breaking ball to set down Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist and Carlos Pena. He threw 113 pitches, 77 for strikes.
It was the second perfect game pitched at Seattle's Safeco Field this season, following Philip Humber 's perfecto for the Chicago White Sox against the Mariners on April 21.The Tampa Bay Rays had four no-hitters - including Dallas Braden's perfect game in 2010 and Mark Buehrle's perfecto in 2009 - already thrown against them in their history.
Hernandez is 11-5 on the year, with a 2.60 ERA. He's fanned 174 in 180 innings of work.
"Words can't explain it. I've been working so hard to throw one, for you guys," Hernandez said to the Safeco Field crowd."It was in my mind, the whole game. C'mon, you gotta do it, you gotta do it. When I came out for the ninth, I was a little nervous, but you gotta make your pitches"Words can't explain it. I've been working so hard to throw one, for you guys," Hernandez said to the Safeco Field crowd.
"It was in my mind, the whole game. C'mon, you gotta do it, you gotta do it. When I came out for the ninth, I was a little nervous, but you gotta make your pitches."
Catcher John Jaso helped guide him through the memorable feat.
"He never did struggle. He kept making pitches the whole game through," Jaso said. "The last at-bat going down 2-0 and still having the confidence to go slider. He had that confidence all day. ... As a hitter you just got to tip your cap and say nobody can hit that. Maybe (Barry) Bonds."
Felix Hernandez pitched the first perfect game in Mariners history.CAPTIONBy Joe Nicholson, US PRESSWIREPinch-hitter Jeff Keppinger grounded to shortstop Brendan Ryan, who retired him for the next-to-last out. That interrupted a string of four strikeouts from Hernandez.
"I just want to take it all in. I'm so proud of (Hernandez)," Ryan said. "What a guy. Lucky to be wearing a Mariner uniform today.
"I was trying to tell myself once the sixth inning hit, 'Don't get too excited.'"
Ryan, who was the last out for Humber's perfecto on April 21, added:
"I was the 27th out a few months back and definitely not fun."
He did his part Wednesday, scoring the only run the Mariners needed. He singled in the third inning, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a Jesus Montero single.
Matt Cain also pitched a perfecto earlier this year for the San Francisco Giants, against the Houston Astros on June 13.
As for Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels and Johan Santana of the N.Y. Mets? They merely tossed no-hitters.